The 2021 Lexus RX combines a sumptuous passenger experience with technology and meticulous construction. That’s how the RX has become the top-selling luxury midsize SUV/crossover in the United States. From the F-Sport variants to the hybrid models to the strong resale values, the RX can cover many bases.
There are a few nits to pick, though, like the frustrating Remote Touch interface (Lexus has addressed this by adding a touchscreen), stingy cargo space and a third-row seat in “L” versions that’s only suitable for smaller members of the family.
However, its pricing is lower than the European competition. And there’s no disputing the Lexus reputation for quality.
What’s New for 2021?
Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert joins the inventory of standard equipment, along with self-dimming/power-folding side mirrors. Lexus Enform Remote (for remote control of certain functions through a smart device, including those linked to Amazon Alexa) has its free subscription extended from one year to three. Wireless charging joins the options list. F Sport versions gain a moonroof and heated steering wheel, while last year’s Performance package is renamed the Handling package. And a new Black Line Special Edition based on the F Sport with its own set of cosmetic additions becomes available. See the 2021 Lexus RX models for sale near you
What We Like
- Exemplary Lexus build quality
- Comfortable and composed driving experience
- Efficient hybrid model
- Standard accident avoidance technology
- Solid reputation for reliability
What We Don’t
- Frustrating Remote Touch tech interface
- RX 350L’s tight third-row seat
- Less cargo capacity than rivals
$45,170 to $57,210
The RX 350 has a 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque. Output lowers to 290 hp and 263 lb-ft with the RX 350L because of its single exhaust pipe. An 8-speed automatic and front-wheel drive (FWD) are standard; all-wheel drive (AWD) is an option.
The front-drive 2021 Lexus RX 350 is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at 20 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg in combined driving. The front-drive RX 350L comes in at 19/26/22.
In AWD form, the RX 350 is rated at 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined, while the RX 350L drops to 18/25/21.
The RX 450h is a hybrid, using a different 3.5-liter V6, along with three electric motors for a combined output of 308 hp. Each axle is driven by an electric motor, creating a particular sort of AWD system that improves traction in bad weather. But it isn’t suited to more demanding off-road duties.
It’s rated by the EPA at 31 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined, or 29/28/29 for the RX 450h L.
Although significantly more efficient than the gasoline-only RX, the hybrid requires premium gasoline, which nearly wipes out any savings at the pump. So choosing the more expensive hybrid is more of a way to reduce one’s carbon footprint than anything else.
Standard Features and Options
The 2021 Lexus RX premium midsize SUV/crossover comes as the V6-powered RX 350 or the hybrid RX 450h.
Whenever the letter L comes at the end, that means it’s a longer version with three rows of seating. Seating in an RXL is for seven, or six if there are two captain’s chairs in the second row. These are optional in the RX 350 L, but standard in the RX 450h L.
Without the L suffix, the RX seats five people in two rows. The F Sport is a sportier variant of the 2-row model.
Standard features are virtually the same across the range, regardless of the drivetrain or number of seats. All-wheel drive is a $1,400 option for the RX 350 models. The destination charge is $1,025.
The basic RX 350 ($45,170) includes 18-in alloy wheels, powered liftgate, automatic LED headlights, automatic high beams, self-dimming/power-folding mirrors, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, 8-way power-adjustable front seats, simulated leather upholstery, power-adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel, cargo cover, 8-in infotainment touchscreen (also controlled by a center console knob), Bluetooth, two USB ports, 9-speaker audio system with a media player interface, CD player, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, HD radio, and an auxiliary audio input.
The Premium package adds driver’s-side memory settings and wood trim. The Luxury package includes those items, plus 20-in alloy wheels, upgraded leather upholstery, front-seat lumbar adjustment, heated steering wheel, powered moonroof, and rear door sunshades.
The RX 450h ($47,820) is equipped much like the 350, but with the gasoline/electric hybrid drivetrain and all-wheel drive as standard.
The RX 350 F Sport ($51,050) and RX 450h F Sport ($53,620) add 20-in alloy wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, enhanced engine sounds, paddle shifters for the transmission, specific exterior styling and interior trim, heated/ventilated front sport seats, leather upholstery, extra color choices, and the contents of the Premium package. The Luxury package is not available, nor does the F Sport treatment apply to the L variants.
The 2021 RX 350 L ($48,000) and RX 450h L ($51,210) have their own all-wheel drive system and third-row seating as standard, but are otherwise equipped like their standard-length counterparts.
A Navigation package is available on every version, bringing a 12.3-in central display, navigation, 12-speaker sound system, and the Remote Touch interface (a joystick-like center console controller).
More option choices depend on region, specifically in regard to certain extras that can be available as either individual items and/or within packages. These include hands-free lift gate operation, a choice of sunroofs (regular or panoramic), parking sensors, upgraded headlights, power-folding second-row seat, heated/ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, wireless charging, head-up display, and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.
The RX comes standard with an impressive amount of safety features beyond the mandatory stability control and airbags. Forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assistance and emergency communications are all standard.
In crash tests carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the RX earned the best-possible 5-star rating for overall crash protection, including 4-star frontal and 5-star side crash ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also gave it the best possible ratings for crash protection and prevention, as well as for its child seat LATCH anchors.
Behind the Wheel
Even in basic trim, the 2021 Lexus RX has composed handling and instills plenty of driver confidence. This is enhanced in the F Sport package, thanks to sharper steering and an adaptive suspension that not only reduces body roll but also improves ride quality.
Every RX makes a relaxing commuting conveyance or road trip companion, thanks to its comfortable and composed ride, tranquil cabin, smooth transmission, and predictable power delivery.
The RX 450h’s power and fuel economy are hard to fault, but it is prone to a bit of transmission whine (like all Toyota/Lexus hybrids).
In EV mode, the RX 450h is wonderfully smooth. The virtually silent driving underlines the luxury aspect. It’s only the slight drone that detracts from a generally pleasant driving experience.
An RX interior is one the plushest and most meticulously crafted in its class. From the dash design to the soft leather, the RX looks and feels special. Adding the Navigation package and its 12.3-in infotainment screen brings a dash of high-tech cool.
Unfortunately, it also adds the Remote Touch controller which is a frequent source of frustration and distraction. Make sure to try it out thoroughly during a test drive.
In terms of space, the RX’s second row is comfortable, spacious and easily capable of securing a rear-facing child seat with room to spare. Cargo space is unremarkable for the segment, however, due to the RX’s raked roofline. Space behind the raised back seat is a relatively paltry 18.4 cu ft. or 56.3 cu ft. with the seat lowered.
Opting for the lengthened L is a good idea for extra cargo space, as those figures expand to 34.1 cu ft. and 58.5 cu ft., respectively.
The RX L is not such a good call, however, as a 3-row crossover. Anyone taller than five feet is unlikely to fit with any sort of comfort. Even if the kids fit now, they won’t for long. Virtually every competitor offers better third-row accommodation.
Other Cars to Consider
2021 Acura MDX — The RX’s closest competitor in terms of pricing and reliability reputation. It is 3-row only and available as a hybrid.
2021 Volvo XC90 — The stylish, spacious XC90 can be a fashion statement just as much as a school run machine. Its third row is one of the most accommodating in the class and there’s a plug-in hybrid model.
Used BMW X5 — Stronger performance and better handling than the RX, plus the cachet of the BMW badge. But prices are a lot higher, so a used example is more affordable. Check out BMW’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program.
Questions You May Ask
Does the 2021 Lexus RX have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay?
Yes. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay allows users to integrate their smartphones into the RX’s infotainment system. Amazon Alexa compatibility is also included.
Are Lexus vehicles expensive to maintain?
Not much more than a Toyota. According to the RepairPal website, Lexus owners spent an average of $551 on maintenance costs in 2019. Toyota owners spent $441. This makes Lexus one of the least expensive luxury marques to own. Only Acura did better ($501). And it will be interesting to see how Genesis performs in this respect.
Is the 2021 Lexus RX more expensive than similar SUVs from Audi and BMW?
Base prices for the Audi Q5 and RX 350 are pretty close, although the Q5’s standard engine is a turbocharged 4-cylinder as opposed to a V6. The BMW X5 costs a good deal more than the RX, but has more standard equipment. Prices for both German contenders rise quickly as options are added.
Despite the RX’s preference of making luxury a priority over sportiness, anyone not considering a 3-row RX variant ought to think about an F Sport. It improves ride quality as well as dynamics and adds a few nice extras. Find a 2021 Lexus RX for sale